In response to legislation passed in Virginia last year, the state's Department of Education has created an "inclusive" policy that looks to make public schools as gender-neutral as possible to accommodate transgender students statewide.
The department's Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia's Public Schools was quietly announced earlier this year, but only recently started to receive widespread attention, according to Just The News.
The guidance offers "information, best practices, guidance, procedures, and standards" for school boards developing policies to address transgender students in their schools. School boards "may adopt example language in the model policies or use it as a guide to draft policies that meet the unique needs of their school division." In one section the policy states that "in general, school divisions should make efforts to eliminate gender-based practices to the extent possible."
"Gender-based policies, rules, and practices can have the effect of marginalizing, stigmatizing, and excluding students, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression," it states, citing "practices that may be based on gender" such as "grouping students for class activities, gender-based homecoming or prom courts, limitations on who can attend as 'couples' at school dances, and gender-based events such as father-daughter dances," the policy continues.
The policy also pushes for gender-neutral descriptions of dress codes, stating "for example, gender-inclusive language such as 'clothing must be worn in a way such that genitals, buttocks, and nipples are covered with opaque material' should be used rather than prohibiting certain types of clothing typically associated with one gender (e.g., 'a mini skirt' or 'camisole')."
"School divisions should further examine and eliminate provisions for gender-specific attire relating to school activities and events such as physical education uniforms, school ceremony attires, gender-specific graduation gowns, band uniforms, or orchestra uniforms when these provisions are not necessary for educational purposes," the policy continues.
The policy also states that students can use locker rooms and restrooms of the corresponding gender they identify as. It adds that "For overnight field trips, the school should not force the student into single-occupancy accommodations that are not required for other students; however, such alternative accommodations should be made available to any student requesting them."
The policy would be in place by September for the 2021 - 2022 school year.
"Local school boards shall adopt policies consistent with model policies contained in this document no later than the 2021-2022 school year," states the guidance, which in Virginia begins in early September.
Some counties, like Pulaski County Public Schools, are pushing to draft its policies that comply with the DOE's guidance.
Pulaski published a draft of its policies on its Facebook earlier this week, stating that the "school division will eliminate or reduce the practice of segregating students by gender to the extent possible," and that students could participate in activities based on the gender they identify as.
Th administration's policy also states that school personnel may "question a student's asserted gender identity when there is a credible basis for believing that the student's gender identity is being asserted for some improper purpose."